Since the Department of Justice’s decision to release memos written by former FBI Director James Comey in regards to his meeting with President Trump, one notable anecdote has been a quick aside in regards to stopping leakers within the Administration. The incident highlights both the Commander-in-Chief’s adversarial relationship with the press at large as well as a pattern within the memos of Director Comey’s attitude of passively acknowledging to a bare minimum the President’s unorthodox behaviors without becoming party to them.
The memo discloses that, at the tail end of a conversation between the FBI Director and the President, the subject turned to the leakers within the Administration and possibly other branches of the government that were frequently disclosing important or embarrassing information to the press. Around the time of the meeting, the President had publicly made it known his frustrations at the White House’s inability to keep information from being leaked to the press. Director Comey intimated a harsh response to leakers, saying he suggested seeing “the value of putting a head on a pike as a message.” The memo does not specify what Director Comey meant in terms of policy by that response
The President responded with the suggestion that journalists who report on the leaked information could be jailed to encourage compliance in identifying sources. “They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk,” the President specified. The Director reportedly laughed off the idea as he walked out of the office as at-the-time Chief of Staff Reince Priebus held the door. The memo is unclear how serious the President was.
The incident is just one example of the President’s cool regard towards the press. The label of “fake news” has been a mainstay of the President’s reactions to the press in briefings and on Twitter. Particular subjects of the President’s wrath has been CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.